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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

It’s the Frames, Stupid

Michael Tomasky reiterates a painful, but necessary point in his blog at guardian.co.uk. Tomasky quotes from and references tough statements by Theda Skocpol and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, vigorously blasting the Republicans for obstructing economic reforms, in stark contrast to what Tomasky sees as wimpier Democratic statements concerning the need for economic reforms. Then this:

…Democrats in general still tend to think that you win political fights by having superior arguments. This of course is manifestly not true. You win political arguments by framing the question the media decide to take up. That means being aggressive in your framing, creating conflict (which the media love), and making sure that reporters will go to the other side and ask them well, how do you respond to this?
Some significant number of Americans who don’t hate Barack Obama nevertheless think he wants socialism simply because conservatives have spent 18 months saying that Obama (and the Democrats generally) want socialism. They do that, and quite naturally the media write a bunch of stories in which Republicans allege that Democrats want socialism and Democrats say no we don’t. It doesn’t matter how the article reads. The Republicans have already won in the framing.
And this is the particular political skill the Democrats lack completely. By merely saying the Republicans want to wreck the economy so they can benefit at the polls, if they said it enough, would show them winning in the framing. And as I’ve written a couple of times now, the basic question of this election, still not established, is going to be framed in July and August. Time’s a wastin’.

There’s no denying that, with a few exceptions, the Republicans have generally played the MSM more effectively with well-rooted frames. They don’t do it with magic, smoke & mirrors. They do it with message discipline and repetition, techniques available to Democrats who like the taste of victory.

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